As REI "Opts Outside," organization seeks living wage for all staff

While those once seeking the northwest lifestyle and the great outdoors often worked at the outdoor gear company REI as a lifestyle choice, in recent years, skyrocketing rents in the region and pressure on REI employees to work less meant these nature loving workers were reduced to part-time status and a barely liveable wage at a company they once loved.

That is when some REI loyalists turned digital in order to build the REI Employees for Real Change campaign which started as a community Facebook page. As the response nationwide grew, the organization posted an online petition at coworker.org to get more support for REI employees. Within hours of its posting, the movement exploded — quite literally and employees from all over the country started messaging and liking the Facebook page. The efforts have paid off with changes going into effect for many REI employees in November, the same month that REI kicks off the second year of their lauded "Opt Outside" campaign aimed at encouraging people to get outside instead of shopping on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving day.

In July 2016, REI announced a 5% to 15% pay increase for all retail employees and in September announced that a new scheduling philosophy is going into effect in November. In the internal memo, REI's leadership emphasized how these changes reflect that REI is a leader in the retail industry, Alpine Anderson. one of the organizers said.

The grassroots organization notes that "we praise REI for beginning to address the scheduling crisis at the co-op, but these changes do not offer any real protection or guarantees for its incredible retail workforce. We urge REI's leadership to take the next step by adopting Seattle's law for all of its workers nationwide."

"Thousands of workers and supporters signed the petition and worked hard to get REI employees a better life and they succeded! REI announced raises and improved scheduling nationwide. We haven't won a living wage yet for every employee, but things are looking up thanks to the brave people who started a grassroots movement, using social media and old fashioned public activism," added Colin Pointon, one of the leaders of the movement for real change.org.

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